Why Filipinos Should Junk Tagalog in Favour of English

Sep 11, 2010
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For blogger, Benign0, Tagalog has never been a national language. Continuing to believe that it is just deprives Filipinos of better opportunities.


I don’t understand what is so complicated about this whole English-versus-Tagalog “debate”. For me, it is a simple return-on-investment calculation. Compare every peso of public funds spent on Tagalog-articulated instruction and every peso of public funds spent on English-articulated instruction. Which of those two pesos spent contributes more to opening more doors of opportunity for the average Filipino? As I wrote way back in my book:

Acquisition of knowledge – the fuel for intellectual advancement – is an unnecessarily challenging issue in Philippine Society. The few volumes of material containing useful information in, say Tagalog, being turned out by the heroics of a few purists – and translators – constitute a trickle compared to the torrent of knowledge that is churned out by the advanced world everyday. The Philippine Elite, armed with their private school or foreign university educations – and superior command of English – readily soak this all up. The masses, on the other hand, struggle to grasp the same ideas through severely limited communication faculties. The insult of an inability to acquire ideas articulated in English is added to the injury of their lack of access to quality education.

The point I make is quite clearly spelt out in the last sentence of the above passage (in italic). Choosing between English and Tagalog is like choosing between equipping one’s self with a bucket or with a spoon when faced with the job of gathering water from a well.

But even taking into account the Filipino’s renowned inability to get it even when world-class knowledge is shoved in his face, the imperative for us to re-evaluate our language policy is a matter of social justice.

The disparity between those who enjoy command of the language that affords its speakers the most power over his destiny and all the rest who are subject to the public system is stark. There are very few high-paying jobs that put a premium on fluent Tagalog speakers. Plum roles go to those who speak English with confidence. And considering that the only hope for economic growth in this sad land lies in our continued panhandling for foreign investment, there is little point in investing scarce public funds and precious classroom time in the public education system on an indigenous language such as Tagalog.

By continuing this foolish insistence that a “national” language based on an intellectually barren dialect such as Tagalog be given classroom time in our public school system, we are in effect choking the ability of entire generations of Filipino youth to partake in the vast wealth of knowledge the rest of advanced humanity has to offer. At no time in history has this knowledge been so readily available.

This is an immense tragedy of epic proportions. In the Philippines those who are in most need of the bounty of opportunities the English language has to offer are the most deprived of it, while those who need it the least – families who are able to afford private education – have it at their fingertips.

The obvious reality is that for proficient English speakers, the world is their oyster.

The obvious reality is that for proficient English speakers, the world is their oyster.

For the poor whose minds are imprisoned by the intellectual bankruptcy of the Tagalog “national” language that is, de facto equal in stature to the English language, their hope lies in a re-think of the obsolete notion of a “national” language that takes up classroom time in our school system and sucks up already meagre education budgets for very little return.

Let us re-think what is nothing more than emotional diarrhoea that has been left unflushed for so long. The “national” language initiative is a failure and resulted in an outcome opposite of what past emo-politicians envisioned. Rather than unifying the country it polarised it even further – dividing us into the English-proficient most-likely-to-succeed elites, and the Tagalog-educated doomed-to-chronic-impoverishment under-classes.


An Aeta reads a Tagalog-English dictionary

An Aeta reads a Tagalog-English dictionary. Should the Philippines give up its ethno-linguistic traditions for the sake of modernization?

Photo credit: Will Townes


This post was originally published on AntiPinoy in July 2010.


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